group of friends in close relationship

6 Biblical Principles for Better Relationships

Good interactions with others aren’t dependent on having a certain temperament. You don’t need a “big” outgoing personality. You can be a shy introvert and still enjoy great relationships.

Here (in brief) is how the Bible says we can improve our relationships:

1. Look back—be retroactive.

If we have any sort of history with a neighbor, coworker, or acquaintance, that experience likely includes both positive and negative moments. Relationships are never improved by ignoring hurtful interactions or forgetting happy ones. It’s only by humbly addressing the former (Matthew 5:23–25) and happily remembering the latter that we keep the peace and build ever-stronger bonds with others. The Bible encourages us to look back over our histories with others. Rough patches need to be smoothed over (Colossians 3:13). Good times ought to be celebrated.

2. Look ahead—be proactive.

The famous “Golden Rule” (Matthew 7:12)—if rigorously practiced—would eliminate almost all our relational difficulties. Being empathetic—that is, being mindful of the needs, desires, and feelings of others—keeps us from having to come back later and apologize for thoughtless words and selfish actions.

3. Look around—be reactive.

Love watches vigilantly, then responds quickly and decisively. Thus, when we become aware of relational needs or problems, we act immediately. In the case of unaddressed tension or unresolved conflict, the Bible is clear: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). This doesn’t mean we will be able to resolve every disagreement perfectly, but it does mean that we need to do everything in our power to clear the air and keep the peace.

Let’s shift to a related topic: handling conflict. Given that the world typically operates by the principles of retaliation and revenge, are we really surprised that so many conflicts—between siblings and spouses, neighbors and nations—linger for years, even decades?

The Bible offers a better way.

4. Kindness to enemies disrupts evil.

When we’ve been wronged, the thought of “going off on someone” can feel very powerful. But all that does is make the environment more toxic and “give the devil a foothold” in our lives (Ephesians 4:27). Solomon said that, ironically, a gentle response has the real power to defuse someone’s wrath (Proverbs 15:1). A thousand years later, Paul urged, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). It’s the good (i.e., godly) response—the one that seems weak and wimpy—that has the most power to change the status quo.

5. Kindness to enemies breaks down walls.

Think of unkind actions (and harsh reactions) as stones of mistrust and animosity. Over time, these callous cruelties combine to form thick walls that effectively separate individuals and groups from one another. Kindness, however, functions like a wrecking ball. Even the smallest act effectively removes a stone or two from the wall—and begins to pave the way for possible reconciliation.

6. Kindness to enemies models the gospel.

The Bible says that before Christ’s forgiveness, we were God’s enemies (Romans 5:10). (And the Bible makes clear that this relational friction was our fault, not his.) God had every reason to “go off on us,” but instead of treating us as our sins deserved, he showed us kindness. He came near in Jesus and did everything necessary to reestablish peace with us. Thus, when we forgive others the way he forgave us, we imitate the love and grace of God.


• Each morning, pray for God’s help in turning your gaze outward. Then pay attention to other people. Put yourself in their shoes. In God’s strength, determine to serve them and treat them like Jesus would.
• Hopefully you don’t have any true “enemies,” but probably you do have people in your life with whom you’re not on the best terms. Maybe just the mention of their names makes you frown. Do this: Begin to pray regularly for those people. Pray also for God’s direction on how you could model the gospel in the way you relate to them.

— Adapted from The Most Significant Teachings in the Bible by Christopher D. Hudson with Len Woods.

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